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Infant Feeding Tips

Parents are often looking for exact instructions on how to feed their infant. There are none. You should learn your child’s cues for being hungry and satisfied and feed accordingly. Your child’s growth chart should act as a reflection on how you are doing. Below are some GUIDELINES and a helpful chart to give you some ideas on feeding. Above all, relax and enjoy!

Many parents find the following table helpful so they have an idea on what to expect:

 

Infant Feeding Chart
Foods Breast milk or
infant formula
Cereals & breads Vegetables Fruits Proteins
0-4
mos
5-10 feedings/
18-32 fluid oz
per day
none none none none
4-6
mos
4-7 feedings/
26-40 fluid oz
per day
Iron-fortified single grain
cereals (start by mixing
2-3 tsp in formula/breast
milk or water and feed
with a spoon)
none

*may start when baby has
been eating cereal for 4-8
weeks

none

*may start when baby has
been eating cereal for 4-8
weeks

none
6-8
mos
3-5 feedings/
26-33 fluid oz
per day
Infant cereals 3-9 Tbsp/day
2 solid feedings per day
7-8 mos teething biscuits
Strained or mashed, cooked
veggies. Start w/mild-tasting
such as carrots/squash/peas
(1/2 – full jar or 1/4 – 1/2
cup/day)
Strained or mashed fruits,
mashed bananas or
applesauce (1 jar or
1/2 cup per day)
none
8-10
mos
3-4 feedings/
21-32 fluid oz
per day
Infant cereals or plain,
hot cereals.
Toast, bagels or crackers.
Cheerios/dry cereal
Cooked, mashed vegetables Peeled soft fruit wedges,
bananas, peaches, pears,
oranges, apples
Ground or finely chopped
chicken, lean meats (remove
all fat, skin, and bones),
cooked dried beans, whole
fat yogurt/cottage cheese
10-12
mos
3-4 feedings/
21-29 fluid oz
per day by cup
or bottle
Infant or cooked cereals
Unsweetened cold cereals
Whole wheat breads,
mashed potatoes, rice,
noodles, spaghetti
Cooked vegetable pieces.
Some raw veggies like
cucumbers, tomatoes
All fresh fruits peeled &
seeded or canned fruits
packed in water
Small, tender pieces of
chicken, fish (no bones),
or lean meat. Cheese/
yogurt/whole fat dairy.
Cooked beans. Scrambled
eggs if no family allergy.

 

Infants 0-4 months of age should receive their complete nutrition in the form of infant formula or breast milk. Do NOT use low iron formulas. Iron is important for brain growth. If your child is constipated, discuss treatment with your doctor.

When do I start cereal?

The best time to begin starting solid/strained foods and using a spoon, is when your baby can sit with some support and voluntarily move his head to engage in the feeding process. This usually occurs between 4-6 months of age. From a nutritional standpoint, breast milk or iron-fortified formulas meet all of your baby’s needs until this age. Start with single grain cereals. Rice cereal is the most “hypo-allergenic” so I would encourage you to start there. Don’t expect your baby to eat much at first. Cereal can be mixed with breast milk or formula. Start with a few tablespoons at first. Feed him until he looks away and is no longer interested. Initially cereal should be once daily. The time of day does not matter; feed your child at a time during the day when your household is calm. It is easier to learn new things in a calm environment. After a few weeks of once daily, feel free to move to 2 solid feedings a day, but not more. Most of the infant’s nutrition should still come from breast milk/formula at this stage. When you are sure your child is eating/tolerating rice cereal for a week or so, feel free to try other iron-fortified cereals such as barley or oatmeal, but you do NOT have to.

When do I start other foods?

After your infant has been eating cereal for 4-8 weeks, you may begin other foods. It does NOT matter in which order you introduce foods. Some people say to start vegetables before fruits so your child doesn’t get a “sweet tooth”. In my experience that doesn’t make a difference, but I do think it is easier to digest orange veggies like squash, before some green veggies like spinach. The only “rules” about foods at this age are: wait 2-3 days between introducing new foods (so if your child has a reaction, you can tell what it is from), do not give more than 2 solid meals per day, and at least one of them should have iron-fortified cereal in it. A good rule of thumb during the first year of life, is 2-4 tablespoons (1-2 ounces ) of each kind of food per meal. If your child is still hungry after that amount, feed her more.

What about juices?

There is nothing nutritionally necessary in juice. Infants who like juice, often become toddlers who only want to drink juice. Excessive juice intake has been linked to a higher likelihood of childhood obesity. Water at age 4-6 months is okay in small amounts, but should not replace formula/breast milk as the drink of choice. Orange and tomato juices can be started at 9 months of age.

What about protein foods?

All of the protein that your infant needs is in his formula or breast milk. It is not necessary to give pureed infant meats. You may want to start introducing meats/protein sources (beans, peas, lentils, cottage cheese and yogurt) around age 8-9 months.

When do I start introducing finger foods?

Your baby’s esophagus tone is reflected in his body tone. You want your child to sit up well on his own, and be able to “right” himself into an upright position after leaning over, before you give him something to feed himself on his own. Crackers/infant teething biscuits can often be introduced at about 7-8 months of age. Do NOT walk away from an infant feeding solids at this point. If they get a big piece in their mouth, be prepared to “swipe” it out with your finger. You should review your handout on “what to do if your child chokes”. Finger foods are small, bite size pieces of soft foods. You may begin finger foods when your baby develops a pincer grasp (finger-thumb pickup), which usually happens around age 8-9 months. Start with dry cereals that are easy to dissolve in saliva (Cheerios are hard to beat). Only put a few pieces on your child’s tray because they often have a tendency to “squirrel” food in their cheeks and you want them to learn to take a piece and then swallow.

When do I move to 3 meals a day plus snacks?

Most children have an interest in sitting at the table for meals, and have the ability to finger feed at age 9 months. This is a good time to introduce them to the family meal routine, and begin gradually increasing the amount of finger foods/table foods and decreasing the amount of mashed foods that require a spoon.

What foods should I avoid?

Honey should be avoided until age 1 year because of it’s link to infant botulism.

Although there is more controversy about them, egg whites, peanut butter and seafood may be more likely to cause allergies and should be avoided until 1 year of age. If there is a family history of nut/peanut allergy, most physicians would advise you to delay introduction of nut products until age 2 or 3 years.

Avoid sweet foods and desserts in the first year of life, including chocolate.

Orange juice is no longer restricted because the rash orange juice sometimes causes around the mouth is from an oil in the orange peel, it is not a true food allergy.

See the chapter on Feeding in your copy of “Your Child’s Health” for more tips.